Carmel head lice startup lands $2.1 million grant

September 21, 2007
ParaPRO LLC, a startup specialty pharmaceutical company that's developing a novel treatment for head lice, has received a $2.1 million grant from the 21st Century Research and Technology Fund, the Indiana Economic Development Corp. announced today.

The grant will allow the Carmel company to complete clinical trials of its medicine for head lice and their eggs. The new therapy is based on a compound developed at Eli Lilly and Co. called Spinosad. ParaPRO acquired rights to use it for lice treatment in 2002.

ParaPRO is a subsidiary of Carmel-based SePRO Corp., which makes herbicides and fungicides.

Touted as environmentally-friendly, Spinosad has a green pedigree. It's based not on a synthetic compound, but on bacteria that occur naturally in the soil. Lilly discovered the bacteria in the Caribbean in the mid-1980s.

The pharmaceutical giant eventually spun out its Agricultural Products Division in a joint venture with Dow Chemical Co. The venture, which became Dow AgroSciences, now sells a line of Spinosad-based insecticides that ring up annual sales approaching $200 million a year. They're available in 70 countries and used on 150 different crops.

According to the National Science Foundation, between 6 million and 12 million U.S. children are affected by head lice annually, resulting in outbreaks that lead to 12 million to 24 million lost school days. ParaPro hopes its Spinosad lice treatment one day will prove as successful as Dow AgroSciences' insecticides.

Since 2006, IEDC has made investments worth $54 million in 45 high-tech Hoosier startup companies. Those startups have leveraged the grants to attract $75 million in additional funding.
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